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Media Daily Mail Theresa May

Why you can expect to see more ‘Legs-it’ style stunts as the lines between the state and a free press blur

By Andrew Eborn and Richard J. Hillgrove VI | Columnists

March 29, 2017 | 5 min read

As Britain stands on the bow waiting for its 300-year-old press freedoms ship to sink without trace, the media crew are starting to scream in panic.

Daily Mail

Was 'Legs-It' an act of press rebellion?

The Daily Mail’s headline on Tuesday's front cover splash of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon 'Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it' was as crass as a fart cushion joke, with poor punctuation at that.

Forget the important issue of whether May will thwart Sturgeon's attempts to wriggle free of the UK with Indyref 2. The Mail decided to take us down memory lane to more non-PC days - all the way back to the 70s or even 50s according to some commentators who must have thought they’d woken up to an episode of ‘Life on Mars’.

If that's what it takes to release the pressure valve of state interference in our lives, then so be it.

It was the Daily Mail that published on 8 January 2017: ‘At the dawn of 2017, the press freedom that has served our country so well since the 17th century is under attack.’ And if the press pack starts to chant the mantra 'united we stand, together we fall', expect to see a whole lot more Legs-it style stunts of defiance in the coming months.

George Osborne, a sitting MP, may be about to juggle a sixth or seventh job as London Evening Standard editor in retaliation against May sacking him, but he’s still a Tory through and through. It’s a prime example of how the lines between the state and the free press are being blurred.

Before long Osborne will be singing to the PM’s tune. She’s his ultimate boss, far superior in the rankings to Evgeny Lebedev, and so the government will have London covered.

Is it May's plan to lodge an MP in the editor’s chair of all of Britain’s national newspapers? Subjugation would then be complete.

Don’t think for a second that George Osborne will stray too far from Tory tracks.

Can you imagine the prime minister’s reaction if it were Osborne’s Evening Standard and not Channel 4 News that exposed the Tories’ gross failure over their 2015 election spending returns – a failure that the Electoral Commission says ‘undermined voters’ confidence in the democratic process’?

Can you imagine her reaction if it was Osborne’s paper rocking the government with a scoop like the Westland Helicopter scandal that engulfed former defence secretary Michael Heseltine in 1986, forcing him to resign?

Or imagine if Osborne was behind bringing the UK Parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009 to light. He’d be popular in the canteen at Portcullis House, we don’t think.

In 1995 when Ron Davies resigned from the cabinet after being caught out lying about being robbed by a man, newspaper editor Osborne could have been the one to expose him.

We wonder how many private political vendettas George Osborne could now have fun with, now that he has a printing press at his disposal and a readership of 1.5 million Londoners.

But it’s not going to happen. Georgie Porgie isn’t going to make the PM cry. He’s going to be a good boy.

If the British media is to be quietly silenced by a pincer movement of strategically placed troops and curtailed freedoms, the Fourth Estate is not going down without a fight. The Sturgeon/May 'Legs-it' headline yesterday has all the air of music playing on the deck of the Titanic.

These cries of freedom will only grow louder as the press resists attempts to relegate it to nothing more than government sanctioned newsletter.

As the Daily Mail reported in January: “No country can call itself a true democracy without independent media, free from state interference, offering voters as wide a range of news and opinions as possible to weigh up before casting their ballots. This is why dictators make it their first objective to seize control of broadcasting stations and newspapers, so that the public can know only what their rulers wish them to hear or read.”

The revolution has only just begun. And it’s going to be fun.

Andrew Eborn can be reached at, @octopustv and @andreweborn and Richard Hillgrove via, @6Hillgrove

Media Daily Mail Theresa May

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